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Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 15, 2020 3:12pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: how do you dead ?

My home stereo is vintage early 1970s. Transposed below are cut-and-pasted and edited discussions about listening devices and portable audio gear I posted at Lossless Legs' forums several years ago. This was written for action figures like myself. Essentially, I'm talking to myself, and I'm putting it out there.

All my rigs are high fidelity, outdated, and "inexpensive." Probably, most people would throw my stuff in the garbage. My favorite wireless portable rig costs about $100, so - who cares if I lose it or ruin it. I listen with JLAB Epic 2 earbuds (purchased online Xmas sale 3 years ago for $50). Great sound, in-ear, excellent fit. I stream lossless music ALAC files, converted by Foobar, from an old 16 GB Nano (purchased 6 years ago from a pawn shop for $30). It feeds into an MPOW bluetooth 4.1 radio (purchased for $30 online 3 years ago). Both devices (earbuds and radio) use aptX codec technology, which is required for aptX codec interoperability. Apple refuses to incorporate aptX technology (as of 3 years ago, when I put this together).

"Qualcomm® aptX™ audio codecs enhance the wireless sound quality of many of the world’s finest smartphones, speakers, soundbars, headphones and tablets. With aptX, music lovers can enjoy wired quality sound - wirelessly. Leading manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung, Vizio and Panasonic use aptX to build superior Bluetooth® products, and support high quality sound."

I'm doing high quality portable audio cheaply. I'm on a tight budget. My devices are older iPhone and Nano models and they don't have data plans or phone plans. I can't use original Apple earbuds because they fall out of my ears. I've been using after-market "in-ear" buds for years. Many of them incorporate features I like for listening during action-type situations like riding the bicycle, walking around, hiking, running on the treadmill, etc. The fact that they are itty-bitty, very light weight, portable, and they can sound very good is worth the time and effort to pursue audio excellence.

For several reasons, I have not yet experimented with noise-cancelling earbuds. I really like using my Klipsch S4 earbuds. They're wired. "Made just for you, the Image S4’s exclusive soft and flexible oval ear tips naturally fit the contours of your ear canals, providing comfortable long-term wear as well as producing a perfect acoustic seal. A good seal minimizes outside noise, also known as noise isolation, and allows you to enjoy your music at lower, safer volumes." I don't recommend them for bicycle riding because you can't hear anything else around you, and that's dangerous. They sound very good. They fit inside my ears very well, and they do not fall out or slide out very much. If I'm not sitting still, I need to use a cable clip ("sissy clip") with them to secure the cable decently. When the cable is flying around it slaps and it's audible. Plus, it's a snagging hazard. When I'm running on the treadmill, it takes some extra fiddling around to get it clipped down nicely. I'm used to it now. The cable run coming out of the bud's ear piece is the most microphonicly sensitive section. Klipsch earbuds have a sliding adjustment lock to help secure this section. Lock it under your chin. It's tricky using these earbuds in action situations sometimes, but with some practice and ingenuity, I'm able to deal with it very well. My lossless audio files sound incredible with them while I'm in action. But, for sure, the cable can be a huge nuisance, unless you're sitting or standing still.

In the summertime, I'm outdoors a lot and I remove my shirt often. It's much trickier for me to use a sissy clip with wired earbuds while I'm shirtless and doing sports-type activity. I get too much cable slap. I first began to experiment with bluetooth earbuds about 6 years ago when I purchased my JLAB Epic 1 bluetooth earbuds. They wear well. I like their design and performance features. Their bluetooth audio quality is a bit thin compared to my Klipsch wired earbuds. But, with my JLAB Epic 1, I'm still able to get nice volume levels, and l'm able to hear loud sounds from outside and around me. JLAB's earbuds have volume and track remote controls. They're nice earbuds for bicycle riding when you do want to listen to music. (I decided not to try out Klipsch bluetooth earbuds, when I saw an image of them, because I doubted they'd stay in place while I'm active.)

For winter bicycle riding conditions, I'm crossover using a Smith Variance snowboarder helmet. It has a nice adjustable ventilation system. I have a helmet audio system installed in it. These earbuds are larger, like speakers. They mount inside the zipped earmuffs part of the helmet's inner lining. Mine are wired, not bluetooth. The audio sounds great, outside sounds get heard okay, and the helmet functions very well for me and what I'm doing. You do have to wear ski goggles with this helmet in order to block cold air from blasting your ears. Again, all this stuff takes lots of practice and experimentation.

When I first tried bluetooth, I was using my iPhone 3GS with Bluetooth 2.1. I was bluetoothing VBR audio files to my JLAB Epic 1 earbuds, which are also Bluetooth 2.1. It sounded somewhat lossy and a bit thin. My oldest Nano sounded better with wired earbuds and VBRs. I don't like dealing with lossy audio anymore. NEVER, never play lossy files (VBR mp3, etc) over Bluetooth radio. Play only lossless audio to assure the radio's transmitted stream is derived from a high fidelity source. I played ALAC files on my iPhones with Bluetooth 2.1. (I don't have any Apps, or Apple accounts, so I can't play FLACs from my iPhones. Apple forces me to use ALACs.) Lossless ALAC files sound much better than lossy VBRs, but it's still a bit thin-sounding compared to my wired Klipsch earbuds. 8GB is the minimum storage for ALACs or FLACs if you want several hours of music on your device. No internet or cellular connection is required when listening this way.

When I wrote this, some audio players and smartphones use Bluetooth 4 and aptX audio codecs, and some did not. What did this mean to me? There are numerous types of aptX codecs. I don't want the Low Latency aptX transmitter that's designed for audio-video syncing when bluetoothing from TV to headphones. I don't want/need enhanced aptX or aptX HD. I want a simple Bluetooth 4.0 (or better) radio using A2DP with an audio aptX codec. Then I can select my ideal bluetooth earbuds and match them to this radio. That's what I was thinking at the time.

I just want aptX audio. "The technology must be incorporated in both transmitter and receiver to derive the sonic benefits of aptX audio coding over the default sub-band coding (SBC) mandated by the Bluetooth standard. Products bearing the CSR aptX logo are certified for interoperability with each other."

The web page for my Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Transmitter/Receiver had a lousy English translation and spelling and punctuation errors. "Perfect Control Design: Designed with independent volume '+/-' button to have a perfect control of voice up/down & playing/pausing. And it also supports 'voice assistant function' of your phone. The built-in microphone and aptX let you enjoy smooth and high quality sound on hands-free calling while driving." I'm not using the mic, making phone calls, or driving my car. I admit, the way I use my MPOW radio causes an extra D-to-A conversion, and an extra A-to-D conversion, but you'll never hear the trivial effects of that while using my equipment under these conditions. For the best fidelity, I turn my device's audio volume to max when I connect it to my radio. Then I use the my earbuds' remote control to adjust my radio's volume control. All 3 devices have their own battery and they are power efficient.

16GB Nano gen 4 playing lossless ALAC files > 3.5mm > connected to Mpow Bluetooth Tx / Rx
Bluetooth 4.1 aptX codec >>> *** Tx / Rx *** <<< aptX codec Epic 2 bluetooth 4.0 earbuds

16GB_Nano_Bluetooth_4.1.jpg


Bottom Line: You need to do lots of experimenting and trying stuff out. For certain, the biggest factor I found was getting earbuds that fit my ears properly, and, getting the correct size gel on the earbud tip. These two criteria are extremely important. For sure, you should re-experiment with the earbud gel tips every 3 months or so. You'd be surprised at how wrong you may have been. Try fitting all of them over again. Make sure you have the best fitting gel tip. How do you know? Good question. With stereo gear, you and your buddies can A - B test all kinds of audio equipment together in the showroom. You can discuss what you know you just heard in the room. With earbuds, you cannot do that. You cannot hear what's inside my head, and visa-versa. It's very subjective. The slightest change in fitting can make a very huge difference. For sure, this is THE most important thing. Everyone has differently shaped ears; individual ears are shaped differently. In fact, Decibullz makes custom-molded earbuds.

Earbuds that fit me very well and sound very good to me may not fit you well and may sound lousy to you. This is the big issue I found. What's the best way I found to test them for fit and sound quality, if you're an action-figure like myself? You cannot do any type of rapid-fire A - B testing with earbuds while doing gel tip changes. It takes too long to switch back and forth. I found two things to test for that which worked very well: 1) Put on your earbuds and shake your head back and forth real good. Did they stay in your ears well? If not, you probably have an inferior product, or, you are not wearing and using them correctly. Select and use earbud products, and gel tips, that work best. Easier said than done. 2) Select a GD reference track with good known material and bass quality. Focus on a long passage of music. Switch and try out all your earbud gel tips. Play the same GD reference track and passage with each pair of gel tips. Which pair has the best sounding bass? They all make a difference in fit and sound. You should find that the best sounding pair of gels is also the best fitting. Keep trying #1 and #2 until you are satisfied. Then try again 3 months later. You might be surprised later. I was. Again, I'm doing this all on my own.

The Klipsch earbud tips seal your ear canal from outside sounds. Great for high fidelity, bad for bicycle riding. The JLAB earbud tips do not seal. For me, a bit too much outside sound gets in and the bass drops off quickly when I encounter noises, or when I generate wind noise riding my bicycle. When I was playing VBRs, I found that setting the EQ to bass boost mode helped. Now I only play lossless ALACs and I always leave the EQ flat. I believe my JLAB Epic 2 earbud gels seal outside noise about 50% more than Epic 1. The Epic 1 model has 5 pairs to try. The Epic 2 earbuds have 6 pairs of gels. Either way, I keep them jammed in my ears when I wear them to get the absolute best sound. They really, really, really need to stay in place. But none of them do. Eventually, all of them slide out at least a little bit, even if it's very, very slowly. The bass always drops off when this happens. So, I'm trying to find ones that fit well enough that I don't have to jam them in my ears too often. I think jamming them in my ears once every 15 minutes is a good starting point for this "stay-inside-your-ears" benchmark.

I probably won't use earbuds very often at night, whether they're wired or bluetooth. I already can't see much in the dark. I'm not willing to go outside and do stuff without seeing AND without hearing. That's just me being self-protective at my age. (udpate: I've had lens implants, vision is 20/20, night vision is excellent - except for lens flaring from bright lights.)

The JLAB Epic 1 bluetooth earbuds (my old ones) have some microwave skipping (dropout) problems. Bluetooth is 2.5 GHz and it's tricky to transmit and receive microwaves omni-directionally. I find that keeping my iPhone flat (not upright) helps a lot. No problem for bicycle rides with the iPhone laying flat in my fanny pack. But, I do get some skipping when my iPhone is upright in my pants pocket and I'm in motion. I also find that landscape-upright position is better than portrait-upright position, but I always pocket my iPhone in portrait. Sometimes I'm wearing pants with huge pockets and I let it get halfway-upright (45 degrees). My iPhone 6 plus is gigantic, so it's portrait only in the pocket. JLAB Audio upgraded their Epic 2 earbuds to improve their microwave skipping problems. Epic 2 earbuds have an upgraded Bluetooth antenna and use Beacon Signal Technology to provide skip-free tunes, even in the most demanding situations (when the transmitter and receiver are both in motion).

I like the JLAB remote controls because they're easy to find, feel, and use. I like how they fit and wear in my ears. You'll never ever lose them if/when one or both earbuds fall out of your ears. These earbuds are moisture sealed and armored nicely.

Unfortunately, they all come with a stupid itty-bitty covering over each earbud chamber, just below the earbud tip. WtF? Like I said, I keep them jammed inside my ears for maximum sound quality. Eventually, soap scum and ear wax gets onto these covers and then the sound volume starts dropping off. I guess it's because I jammed them inside my ear canals real good. I like it louder! It sounds better that way. Who wants crappy sound? What can I say? Once the covering starts getting "gummed up" you'll have to jam them even harder into your ears, making it even worse (positive feedback loop). I tried using the Accessibility (right-left) audio balance on my iPhone for about two months, but the problem got slowly worse and worse in my right ear. It really sucked! This was about five years ago. Finally, I ripped those coverings off. Bingo! They've worked perfectly ever since. I think they're idiots for designing that feature. It's designed to fail. I've learned that other earbud models have them. My ear canals do not have flying debris or tornadic activity inside them. It's safe to put earbuds inside them. I always inspect my earbud tips for wax and dirt each time I put them away, and each time I take them out, and I keep them cleaned.

Below is a photo of the Epic 2 with its factory cover on, and the Epic 1 without the cover. The gel tips are removed to show you.

L - Epic 2 Sport earbud with factory cover on, R - Epic 1 earbud works fine w/o the cover

Epic1_no-cover_Epic2.jpg


The remote controls on my new JLAB Epic 2 earbuds will not work with my devices while I'm using my discreet Bluetooth radio. Just so you know. But, I will be able to transmit using the same MPOW Bluetooth 4 radio w/aptX from my Nanos, my iPhones, or my home's audio mixer where I hook up my computer, TV, and other devices. This bluetooth radio can be operated as either a transmitter or a receiver.

My MPOW bluetooth radio has volume and pairing controls. My Epic earbuds have remote track and volume controls. When used with the discreet MPOW radio, only the volume remote controls on thge earbuds work. The earbuds remote track controls only works with devices using built-in bluetooth, like a smartphone.

My MPOW radio can bluetooth and pair to two devices at the same time out to 30 feet
- each user has their own individual volume controls
- but you'll need to keep within 30 feet of my zoom-zoom location.

monte_bike_gd-2.jpg

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Poster: Diamondhead Date: Nov 15, 2020 5:38pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: how do you dead ?

Looking good hippie. Where you get your shirt? Ft. Collins is a great place to ride.

I used to rock the S4s and totally agree with you. I bought their buds for that reason but they didn't do the best 1.0 release with them. Sound good but "issues."

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Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 15, 2020 8:21pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: how do you dead ?

That's a Primal shirt. I found my S4 buds, and then my bluetooth Epic 1 buds, both times by accident - but on sale, while poking around a nearby Office Max. The JLAB Epic bluetooth earbuds have a bigger driver and longer battery life than its competition. I also forgot to mention that my Epic 2 earbud "covers" gummed up and faltered exactly the same way, in my right ear, just like my Epic 1 covers did, and I was forced to remove them. I laughed, they sound and perform perfectly without their covers. Lastly, Epic 1 earbuds don't have aptX. Epic 2 earbuds do have aptX, and that's why I purchased a second pair. A year later I chatted about this with a bicycle rider dude I met randomly, who was just done taking a leak at the restroom, same as me. He was hooked up with his bluetooth rig, and his bicycle was towing his dog. We commented about each other's bicycles. I showed off my aptX and Nano hookup with my MPOW radio, proud as a peacock. It weighs nothing. Then I removed my earbuds, pulled off the gels, and showed him the empty chambers without covers. He removed his (different model) earbuds, pulled off the gels, and they had covers on them just like mine used to. I think they were gummy, from the look on the guy's face.

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Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 17, 2020 2:05pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: how do you dead ?

I've done a little browsing last night and today, and I read that newer model player devices such as Android smartphones, FiiO players, and bluetooth MPOW radios, and listening devices like JLABs earbuds, have Bluetooth 5 and newer aptX codecs, so all the different aptX modes are built into these devices, and you can switch them on the fly. Select between low latency aptX for audio-video syncing on TV, "normal" aptx for CD quality audio (like what I have now), and HD aptX for 24-bit quality audio, so you can match your devices' aptX interoperability.

The JLAB's Epic Air Sport "true" wireless earbuds are pretty impressive, and they fall into the above category. Great price. You really need their App to "dial in" their adjustable noise cancelling and their adjustable EQ settings on the App's slider bars. These earbuds can operate manually for volume and track controls, or selecting modes and presets, by tapping or pressing on the buds, like Morse code. I'm not exactly racing out to buy stuff like this, just yet... even if lots of stuff is going on sale now.

Meanwhile, instead, I just ordered JLAB's Epic Executive wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation on sale for $30 w/free shipping. They're bluetooth 4, aptX audio, 90% noise cancellation on/off, independent volume control for each earbud. And, I finally splurged for a pretty good and indestructible portable bluetooth speaker. I'm going to try out the Fugoo Tough 2.0. It has aptX, $90, free shipping.

More music time, better sound.

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Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Mar 17, 2021 9:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: how do you dead ?

The last two times I used my old MPOW bluetooth radio, the 3.5mm connector’s output was terribly intermittent. Or, as I like to call it, "end of useful life." Mechanical failure. I use a male-to-male 3.5mm audio adapter (or coupler) to plug it into my Nano. This is by far the weak point in my cheapo miniature rig, but that $30 radio lasted about 5 years, getting munched around in my pants and jacket pockets.

Goodbye old MPOW radio! That MPOW radio is not aptX. My bad! Without aptX codecs, that bluetooth radio used lossy, or lossier, SBC.(subband codecs). With aptX, you get EDR codecs — enhanced data rate, and you can achieve CD quality audio streaming over your bluetooth radio if you're playing lossless files on your audio device.

There’s dozens, maybe hundreds, of portable bluetooth radios. It’s too much work to study all of them. We know Google's search and algorithms are rigged. I was played like a fool last time I shopped, five years ago. This time, I googled "tiny bluetooth radio aptx". I never searched “tiny” before. And only then, for the first time, I found this “old” model Kokkia "IAdapter aptX Transceiver". — https://store.kokkia.com/kokkiaiadapterbluetoothstereotransceivertinystereotransmiiterreceiver.aspx

Like other “inexpensive” portable bluetooth radios in its class, Kokkia's specs are muddled, incomplete, and hyped. It leaves you guessing. Their web page says "new release". That means nothing when the specs on the web page are incomplete. My question was, is it bluetooth 4 and the older Qualcomm aptX chip, or is it bluetooth 5 and the newer Qualcomm aptX chip — https://www.qualcomm.com/products/csr8675

Radios with the newer chip come in a bigger package, appear to use more power, and a bigger battery. I wanted the smallest possible tiny radio package, and, I only need CD audio quality aptX mode. I don't need HD audio aptX or Low Latency aptX modes.

I searched IA's Wayback Machine for Kokkia's bluetooth radio web page, to find out, how old their iTransceiver’s "new release" web page actually is? This tells me how old their product is. Can you believe this crap? Otherwise, it’s impossible to know. Thank you Internet Archive. Problem solved.

https://web.archive.org/web/20141015104903/https://store.kokkia.com/kokkiaiadapterbluetoothstereotransceivertinystereotransmiiterreceiver.aspx

The Kokkia iTranceiver model appears to have come out in 2014. Perfect for me, my two old Nanos, my two iPhone 3 old smartphones, my home audio system, and my aptX portable speaker. My new radio transmits or receives. The price I just paid was $60. It arrived today and I just took it out of the box.

This radio was designed and built for Nano's and similar devices. When plugged into my Nano, the radio fits very close to it, very tiny footprint, very low profile. The 3.5mm connector is built into the radio, and it supports full remote control — volume up / down, pause / play, and next / previous track changes. It's a beautiful thing.

My Kokkia iTransceiver's box has a certified aptX label on it, like you'd expect. And, only when you buy the radio, open the box, and read the manual, do you find out this radio's LED flashes in a certain way when it's running in aptX mode. So, when it’s connected and paired to my JLAB aptX earbuds, it flashes and indicates aptX. And I just verified that. Excellent sound, remote controls working. CD quality audio in my old bluetooth earbuds.

I like this configuration’s power distribution and efficiency. It works best with separate Nano power, radio power, and earbud power.

There's another Kokkia radio with aptX that is transmit only, and it connects to the Nano's dock connector. Very interesting. It's a more secure and tighter connector fit, but it uses the Nano's battery, and it's dedicated to the Nano's dock connector. Price was $50 when I looked around. — https://store.kokkia.com/i10stinybluetoothipodtransmitterforipodiphoneipaditouchwithtrueappleauthenticationremotecontrolsandl-6.aspx

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Poster: gmcgill Date: Nov 15, 2020 5:38pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: how do you dead ?

Good stuff Monte, thanks for posting.